Are Sustainability And Safety Gen Z’s Top Requirements In 2031?

How generational changes of the end customer base may impact electronics.


This blog is my 125th on the “Frankly Speaking” channel on SemiEngineering. A big thanks to Ed and his team for a great run and for putting up with my musings! I had started work-related blogging back in 2008, more company-specific, and some of these have since then vanished from the internet. Who would have thought! For this anniversary, I am looking forward ten years to 2031 and how generational changes of the end customer base may or may not impact requirements in electronics and its enabling ecosystems to which electronic design automation (EDA) and computational software belong.

Looking back, I created word clouds for the first ten blogs I wrote since September 2011 and for the last 10 I published recently, mostly in 2021.

Word clouds for my first ten blogs starting 2011 and my last ten blogs in 2021/2022.

Unsurprisingly, they properly reflect my broadening responsibilities from driving emulation, FPGA, and virtual prototyping product management in 2011 to now leading the solutions and ecosystem aspects in my broader, Cadence-wide role since the beginning of 2020. I have moved on from mostly writing about software and hardware to industry-related aspects around data, AI/ML, safety, and hyperconnectivity.

Dare I predict what I may be writing about ten years from now?

In the last two years, what struck me is the rapidly changing environment and the correspondingly changing sentiment of the eventual consumers that our electronics developments target. As the father of a 17-year-old, I certainly have no shortage of personal data points from my discussions at home. However, do these reflect the generation that will be in their prime purchasing power ten years from now?

Recently, I ran across a report called “2031: A Future World” by Dazed Studio. The full report is worth downloading and studying, especially if you are a parent of a member of Gen Z. The authors used an online survey completed by 1,600 Gen Zs and millennials across the globe in May 2021. In addition, they solicited inputs from leading international experts from the worlds of science, technology, art, sustainability, and more.

The members of Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, are already the dominant age group with about 32% of the global population. We are talking about early middle-schoolers to 25-year-olds. According to 2031: A Future World, they are 16% more optimistic about the future than are Millennials. As a baseline, 30% are very optimistic about their future versus 7% who are very pessimistic.

Having recently written about hyperscale computing and hyperconnectivity, I immediately found a new related “hyper” phrase. Lady PheOnix, Founder & Chief Curator, YESUNIVERSE, predicts that “the future will be about hyper presence through technology. In ten years, we’re going to be fully immersed in AR: we’ll all be wearing smart glasses. It will be our entertainment, the way we communicate.” This translates into identities and online selves being “fluid and evolving expressions of self.” Physical and virtual representations mix and interact. There is also openness to biohacking and “neuralinks,” permanently or temporarily augmenting of bodies with technology.

It looks like before we enter the metaverse, we shall encounter many different types of augmented realities on the way. Some other findings lead to Gen Z’s desire to “connect and share in more creative and self-expressive ways other than just through videos and images.” Only 9% of Gen Z want to stay on social media as we know it today. There is greater desire for interaction “in real life.” Furthermore, influencing purchasing decisions for brands, 46% want brands to be “sustainable and have strong ethics,” while 21% want them to be clear about their intentions.

Is the report 2031: A Future World an outlier? I think not. I was fortunate enough to lead 2021 in the development of a consumer report on hyperconnectivity. We talked to 3000 consumers worldwide and found similar generational sentiments. For instance, there is talk about “brain-to-brain” communication. Gen Z seems to be more progressive here, while also being more skeptical about aspects such as security and data ownership.

It is hard to resist putting in a Wayne Gretzky-ish quote here about focusing on where the change will be. Bottom line, our industry needs to carefully consider the requirements of a changing generation in the next ten years. It is reassuring to learn that our work has a positive impact, mostly. Most consumers think the effects of hyperscale computing will impact them positively in the next five years, in conjunction with other related technologies, such as AI. We already know, for instance, that consumers prefer voice interaction to manage in-car activities, confirming our approach of licensing extensible processors, enabling our customers to implement varying audio processing, filtering, and speech processing requirements. In addition, security and trust will be critical aspects in meeting the needs of a “progressively skeptical” Gen Z.

The next decade promises to be fun and innovative. Of course, Gen Alpha is already standing by as the next generation, ready to change it all up again!


Leave a Reply

(Note: This name will be displayed publicly)